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Being the country’s first black president, and speaking on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s iconic “I Have a Dream Speech”, is a task of almost unimaginable difficulty.

Dr. King is now a legend more than a man. He is American royalty and a myth. As such, the complexities and radicalism of Dr. King’s vision have been washed away in order to fit him into America’s panoply of heroes.

For a variety of reasons--ranging from practical politics, personality, history, to temperament--Barack Obama cannot compete with Dr. King.

There are glaring contradictions and complexities that come with comparing Dr. King and Barack Obama.

Dr. King was a pacifist and anti-militarist who believed that America was the greatest single cause of violence in the world. Barack Obama, while giving his own March on Washington speech, has already, or soon will, order the United States military to attack Syria.

Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement were subjected to harassment and spying by the United States government under COINTELPRO. Barack Obama presides over a surveillance apparatus that routinely violates the American peoples’ constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Dr. King was a staunch critic of American imperialism. Barack Obama is the “black face of American Empire”.

Barack Obama is an amazingly gifted public speaker and was largely able to sidestep these problems and contradictions in his March on Washington anniversary speech.

To that end, Barack Obama made a series of choices about what type of speech to give, and what topics to discuss therein.

In his soaring rhetoric, Barack Obama chose to return to an old trope, and what is for him, a comfortable narrative. He would speak about his dream of a post-racial America, one that is still a work in progress. And as Obama has done in previous speeches, he would choose to play the public scold of Black America, a rhetorical choice that serves to free white folks from any personal responsibility for centuries of American racism.

That Barack Obama would decide to lecture and scold Black America on the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s speech and the March on Washington is disturbing. There, Obama references the many thousands of black folks across the generations from slavery to freedom, people who are quintessential examples of black respectability, personal responsibility, and yearning for excellence and success in a society where the color line deemed them less than equal and fully human.

Rather than draw connections from that legacy to our current moment—and to celebrate such ties—Obama instead chose to talk about black folks as racial grievance mongers, possessed of bad culture, criminality, and who are a people that somehow lost their way, and that need to work harder at holding up their end of the civic and cultural bargain in America.

If Dr. King is really American royalty, and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington is a celebration of how the Black Freedom Struggle helped to transform a nation (and the world) for the better, then Obama sullied that moment--just as he did during an earlier speech to the graduates of Morehouse College—by summoning the tired bogeyman of black pathology instead of singing the many successes of Black America high to the mountaintops.

In following a “colorblind” post-racial script where African-Americans are hurt more by their “bad culture” than by structural and systemic white racism, Barack Obama dredged up caricatures and cartoon images of African-American history.

To point. President Obama suggested that black folks have strayed away from Dr. King’s vision by rioting.

Despite being a talking-point better suited for Fox News and its obsession with “black criminality” and “racist” assaults on innocent white people, Obama’s playing with symbolic racism (and the coded racial appeals of Republicans and “centrist” Democrats from Nixon onward) is a dishonest use of history.

Black folks are not hyper-emotional civic children and brigands who sit around waiting to spontaneously riot and engage in wanton destruction...despite what the Tea Party GOP and the Right-wing media would suggest.

As Obama most certainly knows, race riots in the United States have overwhelmingly been committed by whites against black and brown folks.

Obama is a smart student of American history. He would most certainly know that the Kerner Commission report written in the aftermath of the urban rebellions of the 1960s detailed how those “riots” were caused by predictable variables such as police brutality, economic desperation, racism, geographic isolation, a sense of gross racial and class injustice, and other factors that speak to the power of institutional inequality along the color line.

The Los Angeles Rebellion in 1992 was driven by a similar sense of alienation and justified rage at how police brutality and extra-legal violence against people of color is a recurring fixture in American life. George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin is a recent example of the semi-permanence of that fact.

In those rare moments when black folks have rioted, they were for wholly understandable, and in many ways, quite rational reasons: African-Americans are no more violence prone by virtue of skin color than any other group.

In his March on Washington anniversary speech Barack Obama also talked about how “...racial politics could cut both ways as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination.”

Who is Obama speaking of? What agents are engaging in such theatrics and politics? Is Obama alluding to kente cloth and kufi wearing black radicals who haunt the dreams of "respectable" Middle America? Is Obama talking about “angry” black people who scare white folks by talking about racism and white supremacy? Does this group include the great legal scholar Derrick Bell, one of Obama’s mentors, who brilliantly and incisively wrote about the relationship between the American legal system and white supremacy?

Here, Obama’s allusion to “recrimination” is so broad that it becomes an empty vessel that can only be filled in with a two-dimensional parody of those black and brown critics who challenge white racism and white supremacy.

This is the “angry black person” who hurts white folks’ feelings, is “too emotional”, “sees racism everywhere”, irrational, and unwilling to accept that Whiteness is really and truly benign. The "angry black person" will also not give white people the benefit of the doubt by accepting that racism is really about intent, as opposed to outcomes and/or social structures.

Consequently, the "angry black" is a stock character in post civil rights era America because he or she is a convenient way of silencing, marginalizing, and ignoring the justice claims made by African-Americans.

In total, the trope of "the angry black person" is also a way to create a false equivalence between the anger of black Americans at white racism, and white folks’ resentment at having to be held accountable for white racism, and to being forced to consider, just for a moment, that they may have to surrender just a little bit of their unearned power and privilege for the Common Good and social progress.

In his much praised “Speech on Race” in 2008, Barack Obama made a similar move:

That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings…That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change.

But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.

They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

In his March on Washington anniversary speech, Obama legitimated white racial resentment when he suggested the following:

And then, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us, claiming to push for change, lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots.

Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.

All of that history is how progress stalled. That's how hope was diverted. It's how our country remained divided.

Moreover, while Obama wants action on the part of black folks to improve themselves, there is no equivalent demand that white people take responsibility for white racism.

The President’s March on Washington anniversary speech is a crystallization of the price of admission Barack Obama paid in order to become the country’s first black Chief Executive.

For example, Obama talks in broad and inclusive ways about the racial progress made in America, while continuing to remind the public of the work that remains—all the while not proposing any race specific solutions to these problems.

Obama avoids talking about the particular struggles and concerns of the African-American community because in his own words, he is “the president of all Americans.”

And the country’s first black president publicly scolds African-Americans, with the sum effect being to legitimate a narrative and logic that black and brown folks somehow share in the responsibility for how white racism, both structural and inter-personal, has negatively impacted the life chances of people of color.

Barack Obama is in his second and final term. He does not need to worry about being reelected.

History is his most important audience now.

Will President Obama be remembered as the country’s first Black President? Or alternatively, will Obama be remembered as a President who happened to be black? This is a subtle distinction; it is also very important as we attempt to locate Barack Obama relative to the long Black Freedom Struggle and the Civil Rights Movement.

Barack Obama’s speech on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I have a Dream Speech” would seem to suggest that he is more comfortable with the second title. Ultimately, Barack Obama’s public scolding of Black Americans is not being done for some short-term political goal, i.e. to win a presidential election by having an obligatory for Democratic candidates “Sister Souljah” moment. Given his habit of publicly calling out black folks’ perceived and imagined cultural and moral failings, on some level, Obama must believe such things to be true.

Brother Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a deep and abiding love for black people. He died for our freedom. I believe that Barack Obama also loves black folks too. But, his love is of a different nature and type than that of Dr. King’s. Such a difference helps to explain why Barack Obama is the country’s “first president who happens to be black” as opposed to being “the United States’ first black president”.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I watched his speech twice. Did I miss the (18+ / 0-)

    Scolding? He is no MLK, nobody will ever be but I thought his words were uplifting. Maybe I just don't understand.

    •  read the embedded quotes and the whole speech (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, Victor Ward
      •  Chauncey, how is that scolding c'mon! That sounds (5+ / 0-)

        Like tough love kind of thing to me. Race is a hard topic and the dude is trying despite the right wing  throwing stones at him for it.

        •  tough love only for black folks on the (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT, petral, Woody, SouthernLiberalinMD

          anniversary of MLK's speech? at Morehouse? Where is some "tough love" for white people. Obama lost a ton of my remaining support with that Sister Souljah move. Moreover, his pandering to white racial resentment is tiresome and ahistorical.

          •  Even if one agrees TOTALLY with Obama on (3+ / 0-)

            the issue of "tough love" and "scolding" can be parked at the door for THIS occasion!

            Ayn sucks. Please know I am not rude. I cannot rec anything from this browser. When I rec or post diaries I am a guest at some exotic locale's computer.

            by Floyd Blue on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 10:53:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  That's probably because he loves and identifies (5+ / 0-)

            With AA more? Seems like he is using his life story to encourage others from broken homes. He managed to be the most powerful man in the world  and his father was not there. As far as scolding white people, he scolded the hell out of us for the Trayvon Martin travesty, and I was proud of him for that.

            •  Others from broken homes don't have (0+ / 0-)

              a solid middle-class economic background.

              The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington?

              by SouthernLiberalinMD on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 08:15:55 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  He's doing the equivalency thing. He loves (0+ / 0-)

            the equivalency thing.

            The problem with doing a "Hey, we're all to blame here" position on race is that.....well, Jesus, where do I start. I guess with a couple hundred years of slavery? There's no way to say "Hey, we're all to blame here" after that. There just isn't.  

            And he also neatly sidesteps things like the re-invention of slavery via the prison system.

            It's like it's all about whether or not we're civil to each other right now. It almost reduces the conversation to being about obeying the law and having good manners.

            The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington?

            by SouthernLiberalinMD on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 08:15:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I agree with you on the tough love (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT, worldlotus, sturunner

          aspect. It reminded me of the Bill Cosby statements in recent years (get a good education, stay off drugs, avoid teen pregnancy, etc.).

          Being a multiracial person (Black, White, Asian Indian), I have never fit into any one racial group - even within my own family, so I may have a unique perspective.  I remember the high-school black peers (in the 80s) who accused me and a few high achieving black kids who were taking challenging classes of "acting too white".  I have no idea if this still happens because my local high school is now very diverse and the
          "plural" generation seems to look past race quite well. But I think Obama's message was on point.

        •  I don't think it's tough love, actually. (0+ / 0-)

          If it weren't for his comments to the Morehouse College folks I'd be more likely to give him the benefit of the doubt.

          The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington?

          by SouthernLiberalinMD on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 08:12:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Abraham Lincoln said (17+ / 0-)

    “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.”

  •  nice. (8+ / 0-)
    Barack Obama is the “black face....
    Keep it classy.
  •  I dont see how it's scolding (28+ / 0-)

    His part about the riots seems to relate directly to this part of King's speech:

    But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

    Was King scolding black people then? I dont think so.

    As far as his focus on personal responsibility, I think he is saying simply that societal factors cant ONLY be blamed. Some of that might be personal, given that he didnt have a father in his life, and he can imagine that difference that positive influence would have made and would make in a young person's life. Not that, that solves everything, but's important.

    As far as being a "president happens to be black", I guess, that's true, because he wasnt elected to be president of just black people. He was elected to be president of the entire country.

    •  Thanks for this! (8+ / 0-)

      So I didn't have to look up the quote.  The President definitely had the speech in mind while writing his own.

    •  But as for MLK, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dr. King is now a legend more than a man. He is American royalty and a myth. As such, the complexities and radicalism of Dr. King’s vision have been washed away in order to fit him into America’s panoply of heroes.
      Mythologized and washed, indeed.

      I googled "confirmation bias" and Daily Kos raided my house! And and and smashed my hard drives! Ask CNN, it's all truthy!

      by Inland on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 11:20:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There's a huge difference between that quote (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, Tonedevil, SouthernLiberalinMD

      and the block quote of Obama chiding Blacks as being part of their own problem. MLK was inspirational and the quoted text was aimed at keeping people on the path, not chiding them. MLK also said that the anger and violence was entirely understandable. Not good, but understandable. He never chided, he led.

      If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

      by AoT on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 12:27:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I dont disagree with you about MLK's quote (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But it's up to everyone's interpretation.

        If you want to look at in the worst possible way, you can say he was scolding and didnt have faith in people to keep the demonstrations peaceful.

        I dont believe that, but if you want to look at things in the worst possible way, whether it's Obama or King, you can look at it that way.

  •  Couldn't disagree with this diary more (9+ / 0-)

    He acknowledged some complicity in our own problems while also talking about the vast institution prejudices and discrimination blacks suffered for generations. He did not absolve America for black people's current problems as white folks (especially conservatives) want us to do.

     I thought the post-Trayvon trial speech he gave was even more eloquant in talking  about the horrible legacies black people still are trying to deal with in this country. Obama's speech yesterday was about the couragous people who "marched for us all".

    This idea the Obama is trying to pull a Bill Cosby on us doesn't fly.

  •  He (8+ / 0-)

    also recently scolded African nations.

    Barack Obama tells Africa to stop blaming colonialism for problems

    TNC had a take similar to yours:

    Like Du Bois, Barack Obama has taken the stage at a moment when it is popular to assert that black people are the agents of their own doom. The response to Trayvon Martin, indeed the response to Barack Obama himself, has been to attack black morality, to highlight black criminality and thus change the conversation from what the American state has done to black people, to what black people have done to themselves. Like Du Bois, Barack Obama believes that these people have a point. Du Bois's biographer, David Levering Lewis, says that Du Bois came to look back back on that speech with some embarrassment. I don't know that Barack Obama will ever reach such a conclusion.
  •  Or....Obama used his position of influence and.... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TooFolkGR, KayCeSF, worldlotus, sturunner

    respect, the rightful pride African-Americans feel in his accomplishment, to remind his listeners that progress takes action in non-violent and creative ways.  It will not come out of a hand-out or a closed fist.

    Tax and Spend I can understand. I can even understand Borrow and Spend. But Borrow and give Billionaires tax cuts? That I have a problem with.

    by LiberalCanuck on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 11:06:45 AM PDT

  •  The President is not a minister, he is not a civil (8+ / 0-)

    rights activist leading a march on Washington,  He is the President of the United States. He is a World Leader.

    He is the President of the entire United States. He represents every culture, every race, every ethnic group in this country.  

    There is a big difference between the civil rights leaders and activists and the President just as there is a big difference between the clergy and someone serving in congress and so on.

    Join PA Liberals at

    by wishingwell on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 11:19:37 AM PDT

  •  I disagree with a large portion of this diary. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TooFolkGR, worldlotus, sturunner

    For me the best speeches along these lines talk about where we were, where we are now and what we need to do and not do to get to where we should be. I also know that he has to be careful about what he says because he will be taken out of context by those who oppose him. If he only speaks about external forces holding people back without talking about the internal issues he will once again be accused of stirring racial resentment.

    That being said I will not criticize this diary. We already know that he will always be taken out of context by his opponents. If he gave a speech that laid all but the most minute portion of blame at the feet of african americans that minute portion would be all the right talked about.

    My perspective is also completely different. Yes, I have seen a lot of racism in my life but only from the outside. I have not been blamed for the things done by other whites. I have not been told that my race only needs to do X to succeed but since all of us only do Y it is our own damn fault that we are where we are.

    From my perspective it was an excellant speech but I understand that you have a completely different perspective.

    Most of the people taking a hard line against us are firmly convinced that they are the last defenders of civilization... The last stronghold of mother, God, home and apple pie and they're full of shit! David Crosby, Journey Thru the Past.

    by Mike S on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 11:24:26 AM PDT

  •  I no longer listen to Obama's speeches (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sturunner, Kombema, crose

    so I don't know if you took your quotes out of context or if you cherry picked snippets that suit your purpose or if you just have ears more attuned to hear the "scolding". I don't know if you are following the new group/series RaceGender DiscrimiNATION but I find it exciting because it addresses the issue of the difference in how minorities hear and understand certain things that our more privileged allies do not. I have a feeling that might be part of what is happening here ... but I am probably making assumptions here.  

    I no longer listen to Obama speeches because I get so frustrated and disheartened and feel used when he says pretty words and then turns around and does whatever the "conventional" wisdom thinks is correct.

    He will never be a great and courageous champion of minority rights like MLK or even LBJ (bless little convoluted soul) ... that simply is not who he is or how he thinks. I am sorry for your disappointment.

    "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night." Greg Martin, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida

    by CorinaR on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 11:28:23 AM PDT

  •  What Precisely Are They Competing For? (12+ / 0-)
    For a variety of reasons--ranging from practical politics, personality, history, to temperament--Barack Obama cannot compete with Dr. King.

    There are glaring contradictions and complexities that come with comparing Dr. King and Barack Obama.

    Obviously they are very different men, who walked a different path to a different place... the latter benefitting greatly by the life lessons and the sacrifice of the former.

    You could make the case that--as far as anyone knows--Barack Obama has never cheated on his wife nor did he plagiarize significant portions of his dissertation... But is King a "Better Minister" than someone who was never a minister?  Is Obama a "Better President" than someone who was never a President?  I don't see the point of the "competition" they're having.

    Also if I remember King's speech, didn't he make a reference warning against using violence to achieve ends, or taking actions that might negatively affect progress?  I see this as a call-back to the speech moreso than a scolding.

    I've said this to you before though and it still holds true: You're a brilliant writer and critic, even if I don't always get/agree with your conclusions.

  •  Sounds to me like you had a narrative and (8+ / 0-)

    a conclusion all prepared and ready to be published.
    All you needed were the date and time.

    Maya Angelou: "Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

    by JoanMar on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 11:46:27 AM PDT

  •  I Listened to the Speech Yesterday (8+ / 0-)

    And I reread the transcript again today, and it's really mind-blowing how much of his speech you had to more or less completely ignore in order to imply there was any sort of focus on scolding African Americans.

    But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete. The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn't bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency. Whether by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote, or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all, and the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, it requires vigilance.
    I don't think he's "Scolding" African Americans for erecting barriers to voting, or underfunding their own schools, etc.
    Yes, there have been examples of success within black America that would have been unimaginable a half century ago. But as has already been noted, black unemployment has remained almost twice as high as white unemployment, Latino unemployment close behind. The gap in wealth between races has not lessened, it's grown. And as President Clinton indicated, the position of all working Americans, regardless of color, has eroded, making the dream Dr. King described even more elusive.
    Here I don't think he's scolding African Americans for not making enough money....
    The test was not, and never has been, whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few. It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many — for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran. To win that battle, to answer that call — this remains our great unfinished business.
    We're all on this journey.

    Admittedly, this is talk.. not action.  Rehtoric, and not policy.  But to resopnd to a single line and completely ignore every other word doesn't strike me as honest criticism.

  •  This bit came as a surprise to me. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sturunner, Kombema
    Dr. King was a pacifist and anti-militarist who believed that America was the greatest single cause of violence in the world.
    Assuming that this assertion is true, I would have thought that the Rev. Dr. King would have shared my view that the confluence of religion, power, and money is and has pretty much always been the greatest single cause of violence in the world.
    •  It is most certainly true (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JesseCW, poligirl, triv33, sturunner, Kombema

      MLK was a radical, not some milquetoast color-blind activist.

      If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

      by AoT on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 12:30:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's not the first part of the sentence... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...that surprised me.

        It's the assertion that "America" was the "greatest single cause" the violence. In my view, "America" doesn't cause anything in and of itself. However, the overly-religious and overly-power-hungry, and overly-greedy cause many things, among them violence. And America in MLKs day, just as is true now, did not have a monopoly on overly-religious, overly-power-hungry, overly-greedy people calling the shots.

        In that sense, "America" is and was a leading example of manifestation, but MLK may have misdiagnosed the underlying cause(s).

    •  Mandatory reading. (6+ / 0-)

      1) Bomb Syria 2)???????????? 3) Lives saved!!!!!!

      by JesseCW on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 12:41:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I only have now time to get through about half (4+ / 0-)

        but thank you. It's a great link and what I read has already provided the missing context from the diarist's remark. If the diarist had tied MLK's belief specifically to our (America's) aggression in Vietnam, then I would not have been surprised and would have felt no need to comment on it. (MLK was not measuring America's level of violence against, say, the WWII era Germans, Italians and Japanese from his teen years or the Russian genocide in Ukraine that was at its peak in his earliest childhood years).

        What I was thinking instead was that wars and violence and victimization of innocent peoples long pre-date our existence as a nation, so there must be some other underlying cause or causes that are at the root of it. And that those causes of exported violence are/were often the same as the causes of the domestic social injustices which MLK had dedicated his life to correcting.

        Link bookmarked to go back and finish it on my commute home tonight.   Thanks again.

  •  The Los Angeles Rebellion in 1992 (0+ / 0-)

    You mean that uplifting event where people were murdered because of their race, where buildings of immigrants were deliberately torched, and where high quality stereos and chrome rims were available for free?
    Ah, what a noble cause.

    •  I was ignoring that frame. (5+ / 0-)

      I lived through it and understood the rage but I will never understand riots. I had just moved out of a neighborhood that got hit hard by it. When I drove back through that neighborhood I saw that every local store was burned down. It was the same thing in so many neighborhoods and the people it hurt most were the very people who lived in that neighborhood.

      I don't understand how someone can praise MLK in one sentence and then in another sentence essentially praise something that went against everything he believed and taught.

      Most of the people taking a hard line against us are firmly convinced that they are the last defenders of civilization... The last stronghold of mother, God, home and apple pie and they're full of shit! David Crosby, Journey Thru the Past.

      by Mike S on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 12:30:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think he said it much better (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mike S, poco, chicagobleu, sturunner, crose

    than Don Lemon said it, and unfortunately if he hadn't brought it up it would have overshadowed some of the rest of his speech.  Now, I don't think he actually went far enough in that there's a reason that legitimate attempts to prevent racism can sometimes seem like exacerbated Racial grievance - and that's be REAL RACISTS LIE AND HIDE what they do.  As a result there can be a finger-pointing game sometimes going on and that's a reality.

    This is a subject I discuss in my current diary in response to his speech and the 50th Anniversary in more detail than I care to here, but there's a context to what he was talking about that may be too nuanced for a speech of that type to get into.  All Criticism of Black Culture is not Unfair, unless it is Untrue - and this was largely true even if he didn't get into the further reasons why it's true.

    To my mind his admission of these issues was much like his original Philadelphia Race speech, which also struck to find a similar type of balance rather than be an all anti-white polemic.

  •  Good for president obama. (0+ / 0-)

    Someone has to say it.  The state of black America illustrates what a dismal failure our "leaders" have been since the murder of dr. king.  I can think of no better time, place or audience for his words of wisdom.

  •  Gee so sorry he can't be the first Black President (5+ / 0-)

    as Clinton.  pffft!

    I've read the transcript 3 times, and watched the full video of his speech 4 times.  I found him all-inclusive while he spent a lot of time, with the constant grace of our first Black President, to acknowledge all the good that came from the MLK March 50 years ago and reveled in the anniversary March, while reviewing the historical struggle, the plight of African Americans!  And yes, in his way he also asked all of us to clean house.  He was asking all of us to unify and continue the progress made.

    From his perspective AAs have come far, but there's more to do and it takes the unity of all citizens to continue to march forward.  All of us have learned lessons and need to become better citizens, stop building fences and take personal and community action to help with civil rights for all, jobs for all, and a future free of incivility for new generations.  All of us!

    You were not listening to the same speech I listened to.  As a 62 year-old white woman, I sat with stinging eyes full of tears and thought his speech was awesome.  

    I would rather spend my life searching for truth than live a single day within the comfort of a lie. ~ John Victor Ramses

    by KayCeSF on Thu Aug 29, 2013 at 12:22:51 PM PDT

  •  and rightly so (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    And as Obama has done in previous speeches, he would choose to play the public scold of Black America, a rhetorical choice that serves to free white folks from any personal responsibility for centuries of American racism.
    What kind of personal responsibility do white people have for "centuries of American racism"? There is no such personal responsibility.

    Is there some collective responsibility for what happened in the past? Yes. Does an individual white person have a personal responsibility for that? Absolutely not.

  •  what's the right way to talk about this? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think that I understand the argument that scolding feeds into the conservative "blame the victim" worldview, and the fear that it can be used to run interference for racism.

    But it seems like the question of white contrition versus black self-help/power as the ultimate solution to racism didn't just start, and there's always been a sharp divide in the black community over it.

    What would be the correct way to speak to these concerns among the black community that even if all the problems can be laid at the white man's feet, the solution must not be put in his hands?

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